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2014

  • October 2014 : Introduction of Christian theology lessons into school curricula in Turkey

The teaching of religion in schools has always been a thorny issue in Turkey, in particular for the Alevi community, a heterodox branch of Islam. Complaints have been raised by Alevi Turkish nationals about the content of compulsory lessons in religion and morality in schools, which are based on the Sunni understanding of Islam. Subsequently, in September 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its decision, declaring that the Turkish education system is not yet able to ensure respect for the various convictions and that Turkey must reform its teaching programmes for religious education in schools.
The Turkish government criticised the verdict by expressing the need for teaching moral values to prevent religious information which could be harmful and incorrect. In early October 2014, the Turkish Minister for National Education declared that the teaching of Christian theology would be included in school curricula for pupils from Christian backgrounds. He also announced the preparation of a religious education curriculum by Jewish citizens.

Source : Daily Sabah.

  • 22 September 2014 : the wearing of the veil is henceforth authorised in high schools in Turkey

Following the meeting of the Council of Ministers of 22 September 2014 in Ankara, Government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç announced that regulations on banned and permitted clothing had been modified. According to Arinç’s explanation, the term “uncovered head” present in paragraph “e” of Article 4 of the regulations, as well as in the last sentence of this same paragraph, had been repealed.
This change is presented as a measure intended to widen personal freedoms, but it became the target of sharp criticism. The secular opposition considered that it is an act aimed at reinforcing Islamisation of the country, highlighting that the freedoms are broadened only in one domain.

For more information, see Le Nouvel Observateur.

  • 16 September 2014 : the ECHR invites Turkey to reform the compulsory teaching of religion in the Turkish education system

Following the implementation of compulsory lessons in religion in Turkey, 14 Turkish citizens of Alevi confession had asked in 2005 for the programme of teaching of religious culture and morality to be revised by taking into account Alevi culture and philosophy. Faced with the lack of an answer from the Ministry for Education, they turned to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2011, considering that the content of compulsory courses in religious and moral culture gave precedence to the Sunni approach to Islam.
On 16 September 2014 the ECHR announced its decision, calling upon Turkey to reform the teaching of religion in schools. Recalling that the Turkish education system ought to keep its neutrality and impartiality on religious issues in order to guarantee respect for the various convictions, the ECHR condemned Turkey for violating the right to education. The Court considered that Turkey should quickly put in place suitable means to rectify this situation, by introducing an exemption system to make these lessons non-compulsory.
Following the ECHR decision, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that the ECHR decision would be examined by the Turkish executive, pointing out the importance of teaching a suitable religious culture. The decision will be final within three months, if in the meantime no party requires its re-examination by the Grand Chamber of the Court.

For further information : Le Nouvel Observateur, Radikal (in Turkish).

  • The movement of Muslim anti-capitalists in Turkey : a new type of religious action against the political powers

In recent years, the appearance of a new politico-religious force has become apparent in the public arena in Turkey. It is the movement of anti-capitalist Muslims, whose doctrine stems from a cross between Marxist ideology and the Qur’an. Their participation in many social initiatives, such as the Gezi movement on 1 May 2013, testifies to a re-appropriation of left-wing discourse by anti-capitalist Muslims. In addition, the participation of activists coming from various left-wing persuasions in the ceremony of “breaking the fast” (yeryüzü sofrasi, iftar), organised by the anti-capitalist Muslims, testifies to the success and breadth of this movement.
In an article entitled “Belonging to Islam without appearing Muslim : the Alevis’ dilemma in Turkey” (Orient XXI, 23 January 2014, in French), Samim Akgönül puts forward an analysis of this movement of political Islam : "Since political Islam has been in power and especially since the emergence of a generation of urban intellectual Muslims, political Islam has lost its monolithic character. It comprises several opposing tendencies. One of the more surprising examples of this multiplicity of facets of politicised Islam is the emergence of a group of young Muslims who violently oppose the party in power - the Party for Justice and Development (AKP), principal representative of political Islam in Turkey. These anti-capitalist Muslims blame the Islamist powers for being more capitalist… than Islamist. […]
Turkish anti-capitalist Muslims are often young people from popular areas, politicised at university, familiar with Marxist ideas, but who continue to define themselves as Muslims. Reconciling a resolute Marxist affiliation and a convinced Muslim one takes place via a certain number of Islamic principles understood to be the foundations for a united, social, socialist, and above all anti-capitalist stance. This group does not only oppose the capitalism of the AKP, it has many points in common with other political movements on the socialist and/or liberal left. […]".

23 février 2013